As the Unesco World Heritage Convention celebrates its 40th anniversary, Kenya is also marking the successful inscription of two of her properties into the World Heritage List to bring the total number of the nation’s sites to six. The new additions to Kenya’s global pride are Fort Jesus in Mombasa and what is termed the Kenya Lake System in the Rift Valley.
The two properties were added to the World Heritage List in June 2011 during the 35th meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee held in Paris. The two sites were among 25 new sites inscribed into the list during the meeting. The global list now totals 936 sites scattered throughout the world, 120 of which are found in Africa. In a private initiative, a British-born Kenyan conservationist, Dr Peter Howard, has set up a website (www.AfricanWorldHeritageSites.org) to celebrate these African gems and to provide a hub where you can find extensive information about them.
The Kenya Lake System site, consisting of Lakes Bogoria, Nakuru and Elementaita, and covering a total of 32,034 hectares, was the first new site to be inscribed in 2011. The property is home to 13 globally threatened bird species and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. It is the single most important feeding site for the lesser flamingo in the world, and a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans. It is also home to several large mammals such as black rhino, Rothschild’s giraffe, greater kudu, lion, cheetah and wild dogs.
The 2.36 hectares Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa. It is one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of 16th Century Portuguese military fortifications and a landmark in the history of this type of construction. Historically, Kenya’s first sites to make it to the World Heritage List were Lake Turkana and Mount Kenya National Park which were both inscribed in 1997. Lamu Old Town would follow in 2001 and then the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests seven years later, followed by the two newest sites.
Kenya, which joined the convention in 1991, has so far submitted 19 other sites, including the vast Tsavo Parks, the Tana Delta, Maasai Mara and the Mfangano Island Complex, which remain in the Tentative List of probable inscriptions into World Heritage status. As the World Heritage Committee prepares for its 36th session in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, in June this year, Kenya will be hoping to elevate some of these 19 sites into the world stage.